The following text is from an article in the Advertiser on Dec 17th 1970.
ex-miner Dick Pownall says…
It was essential for the New Town to come
A very likeable fellow is ex-miner Dick Pownall. He is methodical, organised, and in Skelmersdale, were he has lived for most of his life, he is well-known and popular.
One of the original “Skemmers,” 72-year-old Dick, of 10, Thorndale, differs from many of his contempories in that he welcomes the new town which has brought about the wholesale transformation of the old mining community. But Dick’s story really begins on the fringe of Skelmersdale at Lords Row, Bickerstaffe, where he was born and where he lived until he was married.
Large families were the order of the day in those times and his was no exception – Dick was one of a family of 13 children. And it was at the age of 13 that Dick left school and began working in the local mines. He worked mainly at the Bickerstaffe Colliery but also had a spell at Prescot, working for the local White Moss Company. It was in the year of the sinking of the “Titanic” that he threw his slim, youthful frame into the daily toil and dangers of mining.
For three years he worked on the surface of the pit and then when he was 16 years old, he was lowered to the coalface. For 18 years all was well at Bickerstaffe, until that fateful day which Dick remembers well, December 12 1932, when fire broke out at the colliery.
The generator caught fire and all the electric wires burned out. Recalls Dick, “No one was killed but as I remember it was only thanks to good management at the pit head and the control of the winder, a Mr Gerrard. We all had to run for our lives and it was only the guidance of the colliery manager and the coolness of Mr Gerrard, who were both working by lamp light, that saved us. They were working under extreme difficulty but they got us out safely, thank goodness. It was a terrible experience.”
Four years later, the colliery wound up and for the first time since he left school, Dick was out of work, but not for long. Shortly afterwards he started work for S.T. Rosbotham of Bickerstaffe as a baler and general labourer. He remained with the firm for 14 years and left when an accident put him out of action. Explained Dick, “I slipped off the back of a wagon and my injuries were such that when I recovered, I had to find a job which only involved light weight.”
Always keen to work, he found employment with a timber firm but shortly after was made redundant which brought about another move, this time to a Burscough cake making firm.
Since then he has worked at a firework factory and as a nightwatchman.
“I like to keep active and busy and have never been afraid of doing a day’s work,” said Dick.
In 1923, when he was 25 years old, he was introduced to the Odd Fellows movement and has been a member ever since. A past Grand Master of the Lord Skelmersdale Lodge, Dick was for 28 years the Lodge’s sick visitor and used to cycle around the district each week. It is a record of which Dick is rightly very proud. In other ways quiet and retiring, he is only too eager to talk about the many friends these visits and voluntary work have brought him.
In 1922, Dick married the daughter of the then landlord of the Derby Arms in High Street, Skelmersdale. They lived for a spell at Lords Row and then moved to the Darby Arms and then to Liverpool Road, before they got a house of their own in High Street.
“When the new town came we were told that the future of our house was uncertain and finally were offered an old people’s bungalow here. It is warm, tidy and in pleasant surroundings and jolly glad we were offered it,” says Dick. In fact , when he was selected, he was so pleased that he wrote to the Council thanking them for it.
About the new town Dick said, “I think it was essential for it to come, Most people were travelling out of town to work and that is as bad as paying two rents, there was a lot of unemployment about, but not so much now. As far as the Liverpool people are concerned, I think it is up to the old towners to make them welcome. They are here to stay and I am quite happy to see them here. I have many friends among them.”
Dick and his wife, Margaret, have one son who lives in Southport, three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. In January they will have been married 49 years.
Dick’s main interest at the moment is as treasurer of the Good Companions Over 60′s Club which was formed in 1967 and meets each week in the New Church Farm meeting room.
He works hard for the club and for the local Catholic Church, and it is around this time of year that Dick takes on the other role which he has played for many years – that of Father Christmas at the church’s Christmas Fair – a very fitting job a man like Dick Pownall.